Many Novocastrians recognise Lyndsay Walker as a super fit athlete who completes a series of physically-demanding challenges in the name of charity.
Mr Walker, however, wants to be “the best listener I can be”.
The former professional cricketer, who represented Nottinghamshire in the English County Championship, has joined Lifeline as a Crisis Support Operator.
Mr Walker underwent a gruelling 10-week course, during which he was trained to be non-judgemental and listen to people’s pain.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve done – to be tested and evaluated to see that you’ve got what it takes to sit with anyone – they may be sad, lonely, or in an urgent crisis, so suicidal,” he said.
“There are many different reasons [for a call] and, in my experience, it can be quite challenging but very rewarding when the call ends and they go: ‘Thank you for listening’ or ‘thank you for being my friend.'”
During the first few months of the pandemic in Australia, Lifeline received an unprecedented number of calls, recording 250,000 across the nation from March to June.
This included about 3,000 in the Hunter Region.
Last month, the Federal Government announced its fortnightly coronavirus boost, which applies to people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy and a number of other benefits, would be cut back from $550 to $250.
Mr Walker believed the period leading into Christmas could prove challenging for many individuals and families.
“Talking to people on the street, so many seem concerned about the next six months,” he said.
However, he added Mental Health Month, celebrated in NSW each October, was the ideal time to promote Lifeline’s work and the need to engage in conversation.
“Whether it’s on social media, with a person on the street, or on the phone, it’s about conversation,” Mr Walker said.
“It brings energy, gets people out of suppression, and helps them feel better.”
During Mental Health Month, Lifeline is encouraging Australians to ‘Imagine Your Own Challenge‘.
Some ideas include: completing a no sugar challenge, using only recycled fashion, connecting with others, undergoing a digital detox, reading more books, swimming laps, or giving up coffee.
Apart from his new role with the national charity, Mr Walker is also busily preparing for next year’s Newy 100, which he founded in 2019 to help raise funds for Lifeline.
The event, a 100-kilometre loop around Newcastle beaches and the foreshore, will take place a few months later than the inaugural edition, with athletes due to set off at 4pm on Saturday 1 May and finish at 10am the following day.
Mr Walker said continuing the Newy 100 after dark had previously created a symbolic moment for participants.
“It’s [symbolic] of the dark time that everyone experiences in mental health and people really started to come together at that stage in the event,” he said.
“That’s why we’ve chosen the same times, but not during the middle of summer.”
*Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis support line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Lifeline’s text service is available by texting 0477 13 11 14 from 6pm to 12am. There is also face-to-face counselling available.